We spent the past weekend at my mom's on Vancouver Island. Now if you read my previous post about Saying No to Holiday Gifts you may have determined that someone in our family gets a lot of joy from giving gifts and happens to be very good at it. That's my mom (Hi mom! Sorry!). Over the years we have negotiated a few deals to keep our small home uncluttered and ensure that the true meaning of Christmas is not lost in the frenzy of gifts. Along with a pre-Christmas morning, we had a family skating morning, sat on Santa's lap and went on a forest walk. Mostly we just had time together, slowing down. But I wanted to share how we negotiate our own gift-giving/receiving, as with most things, it doesn't fit perfectly in an article of recommendations (though I still stand behind my previous post here). There are real emotions and feelings that go along with material things and we try to be sensitive to everyone involved.
I know this is not a new idea, but we now have a secret Santa (using drawnames.com) for our extended families. Secret Santa allows everyone to come up with one or two thoughtful gifts rather than have an overwhelming number of presents under the tree. This has been the best thing for our in-town extended families and it's a great way to have newer family members feel instantly included at Christmas (new boyfriends/girlfriends etc).
The kids are another story. As you may have seen on my Instagram stories we have a deal where Grandma can buy as many large plastic toys as she wants (mostly second hand or from facebook swap pages) but they have to stay at her house. Needless to say the kids love to visit her home and sometimes prefer to stay there. While I have no guilt over the lack of large, noisy plastic toys the kids have, I do long for a backyard like Grandma's (but that topic is for another day).
The kids were gifted some useful toys from Grandma, things I probably wouldn't buy for them (Lego and a large noisy dinosaur for Theo and a doll stroller for Mae) but that's what compromise is all about. In preparation, we donated some toys that weren't played with in a while and packed some toys away in the linen closet to pull out again in a few months. If they still aren't played with at that time, then off to the thrift store they will go. Because my mom is so generous at Christmas, our own Christmas morning can be a bit anticlimactic. We have currently bought one gift for the kids to share, and a new book and some lego for Theo. I may put together small stockings this year. But otherwise we want to renew our science world membership and do some Christmassy adventures like Van Dusen Gardens or Grouse Mountain.
As for myself and Trevor, we haven't exchanged gifts in many years. While the idea of taking the time to think of your partner is valuable, we choose to use this season to dream up trips for the upcoming year. We try to plan a date night in December to share travel ideas for the coming year. Budgeting for a trip or van adventure rather than gifting a new sweater or jewelry has been an easy choice for us.. But no judgement if you choose to exchange gifts!! We have just found we get more joy from travel, than things.
When it comes to friends, as much as possible we try to spend time with our friends instead of exchanging gifts. Before we plan the date we like to say, no gifts, let's just spend time together!! Also sharing food and drinks is a great way to feel festive without adding more stuff to anyone's home. Though I do keep a stack of my favourite books in the closet in case I get caught without a gift ;).
Hope this isn't too rambling but I wanted to share that while it's easy to write a post about how to say no to gifts during the holidays, reality is never perfect. We are just doing our best to live intentionally in our small space, and valuing experiences over things without alienating all our friends and family :). Moreover, this time of year I can't help but be so grateful for all we have and look for ways to give back. I love this amazing initiative with Covenant House. If there are others you know of please share in the comments!